Please write By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has been quick to clear the actions of police who waived a traffic infringement notice issued to the Police Commissioner’s wife.
The CCC has found no misconduct in the process by which police withdrew the ticket issued to Carol Stewart, wife of outgoing Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart.
Mrs Stewart had been issued with a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign, but it was withdrawn after she appealed in writing to the officer in charge of the local police station.
The offence carries a penalty of three demerit points and a $319 fine.
Lightning fast decision
After news of the decision to withdraw the fine hit the media, the CCC immediately reviewed the correspondence between Mrs Stewart and the QPS.
It quickly ruled there was nothing wrong with the letter she wrote to the officer in charge, or the process by which the officer decided to withdraw the ticket.
However, many in the community who have had their tickets remain in place are sceptical about the motives of the officer in charge in waiving the fine, suspecting it may have more to do with the fact it concerned the wife of their highest superior.
That scepticism comes in the context of several recent incidents whereby police officers have been found guilty of misusing their powers and going above and beyond to protect their own.
Adding to suspicions, the Queensland Police Service (QPS) has refused to release the reasons behind the ticket being withdrawn, stating that details of the correspondence between Mrs Stewart and the officer in charge will remain confidential.
A spokesperson from the QPS says all Queenslanders have the right to appeal traffic infringements if they believe they have been wrongfully or incorrectly issued.
Queensland Police Commissioner resigns
Earlier this month, Mr Stewart announced he will be stepping down in July this year after more than 45 years with the Service, six of them as Police Commissioner.
His tenure in the top job has been marred by controversy, including that surrounding the case of former police sergeant Rick Fori who was finally acquitted of misconduct in public office last year after being accused of leaking video footage of his police colleagues assaulting Noa Begic in the carpark of Gold Coast police station in 2012.
It was discovered four years after the incident that the sergeant David Joachim, who washed away Mr Begic’s blood after the bashing, was related by marriage to Ian Stewart, who was deputy Police Commissioner at the time of the assault. Mr Stewart denied any involvement in the police investigation into the Begic bashing.
David Joachim was stood down on full pay after the bashing came to light, retiring in 2013 without any action being taken against him. Indeed, an internal police investigation found “no further action necessary” against Joachim.
Only two of the officers involved in the assault have faced any disciplinary action, and none have been charged with a criminal offence despite overwhelming evidence of assault, which is depicted in shocking CCTV footage. That footage shows, among other things, one officer holding down Mr Begic’s while another delivers punches to his head.
Mr Flori was stood down and criminally charged after being accused of leaking the video, and fought six years to clear his name.
He is still battling the QPS in a civil suit, seeking compensation for his treatment.
After his acquittal, Mr Flori backed calls for an independent inquiry into the QPS disciplinary process, which the Queensland Government has rejected.
Commissioner Stewart has also been heavily criticised for his handling of an incident whereby an officer unlawfully accessed the police database and leaked the address of a domestic violence victim to her former abusive partner, his mate.
Top cop in court
It has also been reported that the Queensland Police Commissioned Officers’ Union has launched civil action against the QPS and Ian Stewart over an alleged breach of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement and resulting failure to pay entitlements.
The complainants assert that they are being knocked back for professional development courses, and have summoned the Commissioner to appear in court next month.
The Queensland Government is now actively recruiting a replacement for the Commissioner, but it looks like his last months in the job may be far from smooth sailing.
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